Tuesday, March 25, 2008

4 years later...the poker boom on TV and the WPT on GSN.

There were 3 main things in 2004 that led to the huge boom in poker on TV.

1) The 1st and most important reason was the invention of the hole camera that allowed viewers at home see what the player's hands were. This allowed the TV audience to see how the pros and amateurs would play hands in certain situations. Without the technology there would be no poker boom. However, without proper application the technology would've gone to the wayside. That leads us to...

2) The Travel Channel and ESPN and the respective World Poker Tour and World Series of Poker telecasts brought poker into everyone's living room. It turned the game into a spectator sport. Not only could the average Joe at home watch Phil Helmuth win a tournament but they also could watch him whine and complain and understand why he was acting like such a dip, since they could see that his pocket kings lost to 9 7 offsuit. The WPT on the travel channel allowed certain players to become stars much like any pro golfer or NASCAR racer. The TV poker pro emerged from this era, and people like Howard Lederer, Phil Ivey and Daniel Negreanu became recognized as the top players of the game by winning or placing high in WPT tournaments. While ESPN did cover the WSOP since the 80's, the hole cam allowed them to expand their coverage in 2004 and that leads us to the 3rd reason for the poker boom....

3) Chris Moneymaker won the 2004 WSOP main event. The fact that your average stiff could win a 60 buck satellite online and then ultimately win 2 million dollars without having been the best but get lucky led to the biggest boom of all. We all could envision ourselves winning a major tournament and the flood towards online play, home games and casino poker started.

So, why the history lesson?

I watched the WPT coverage last night on GSN. (their debut episode)

It was mostly the same as it had been on the Travel Channel, with the exception of some better graphics and info. I was hoping it would be much better, but the tournament format that made poker popular in the 1st place is what is making it boring to watch. But I have to remember it was once exciting to me to watch and it's what mainly inspired me to go out and play without fear that I would suck. The WPT and tournaments like it give the viewer that hope that if they get the right cards and not play like a complete fool, they too can win a big score.

Of course, I've grown as a player and found much more vital information through experience and books than I ever have watching it on TV, but it was an easy way for to learn enough to get started. I've been hooked since. I also hope that the popularity stays, people at the casinos are playing like they are in tourneys and don't adjust well enough for a cash game. Needless to say, it makes me more successful in cash than in tourneys.

Although my response to watching was somewhat tepid the show did have interesting moments. Watching Phil Ivey go the rail early for the 7th time at a TV final WPT was amazing. He truly is a top 3 player in the world if not the best. For him to not get a WPT bracelet after 7 close tries is incredibly unlucky. It was also interesting to see the younger internet players take over the last 3 spots. I wish their naked aggressive style would work for me lately...

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